Back-to-school Tips for Parents

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It’s back-to-school time, and students, equipped with the necessary supplies, are ready to tackle another school year.

School supplies aren’t limited to what the student carries in their backpack. The school library furnishes ready-made “school supplies” - resources designed to maximize a child’s educational experience.

Beyond a place where students can visit to check out books, the school library is a place where students can work on their homework assignments, explore new technology, and share new thoughts and ideas. The presence of the school librarian ensures that they can gather and learn in a safe environment.

As educators, school librarians strive to teach students to be independent users of information and it is in the best interest of parents to assist in this process. School librarians prepare students for life-long learning, informed decision-making, a love of reading, and the use of information technologies. They empower students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers and ethical users of information.

Today, our meaning of literacy exceeds that of books and encompasses all information. Technology has changed the landscape of education and schools are attempting to keep up with these changes. According to A Global Imperative: The Report of the 21st Century Literacy Summit, “A profound shift is taking place in the way people communicate and express themselves…a new concept of language – and what it means to be literate – is evolving...incorporating visual and aural elements with textual elements, and an immediacy which itself is a dimension of the new language”. With so much misinformation in our data-driven society, school librarians must help the entire educational community to obtain the necessary skills to survive and thrive in the 21st century.”

Learning today means more than memorizing facts. It means learning to learn for a lifetime. Savvy parents and educators know that the school library is key to teaching students not just to read but to practice the skills they need to seek, evaluate and use information throughout their lives. In fact, research shows those students from schools with professionally staffed, fully equipped libraries score higher on achievement tests.

The best way to find out about your school library is to pay a visit and ask the following questions suggested by the American Association of School Librarians, a division of the American Library Association:

  • Is there a state-certified full-time school librarian?
  • Does your child have access to the school library anytime during the day that he/she needs to use its resources? Does the library offer remote access from home via computer?
  • Does your child visit the school library frequently with his/her class? Individually? In small groups?
  • Is the school library an attractive and convenient space where children can work individually and in small groups?
  • Does the school library have a wide range of resources in a variety of formats–books, computers, audio and videotapes–that appeal to different learning styles?
  • Does the library have the hardware and software to provide access to the Internet and other electronic resources?
  • Are the resource materials in the school library current? Are the encyclopedias less than three years old?
  • Is the school library budget adequate to provide a full range of both print and electronic resources?
  • Are children encouraged to read, view and listen both for understanding and enjoyment?
  • Are school administrators knowledgeable and supportive of the school library?
  • Does the school provide ongoing training to support teachers and staff in learning about new technologies?
  • Are teachers encouraged to work with the school librarian to extend learning opportunities beyond the textbook and classroom?
  • Is there a process for ongoing evaluation of the school library?

Learn more about the critical role of school libraries and certified school librarians in ensuring student success.


Photo: Middle school research by Mary Woodard.